By: Jessica Brouillard, NICU Mom

On July 5, 2011, Jessica Brouillard’s water broke at 25 weeks and three days into her pregnancy with her first child. Sixteen days later, she gave birth to her son Cameron. This is the story of her experience as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) mom.

I’ll never forget entering that NICU with my husband. I remember getting to the door of

[my son’s] room, where I saw the smallest baby I had ever seen lying inside a plastic incubator. The moment I placed my finger tip in his tiny hand, he wrapped his little fingers around mine and squeezed so tight that his knuckles turned white.

Standing by his side was a nurse. Her name was Brenda, and she was his primary nurse. Brenda talked to us about what to expect in the NICU and said I could stay as long as I wanted every day, even sleep there. She showed us how to properly wash our hands every time we came in, explained every monitor and wire, and explained that the first few days would be very telling as to how he was going to do. She was so thorough, patient with our questions, and soft and warm and kind.

Brenda was my angel in scrubs. She calmed my fears, truly loved my baby, encouraged me, believed in our son, laughed, and joked, and, above all else, each and every day she gave him her very, very best.

That night, we met Jenna, Cameron’s primary night nurse, who gave me the ability to be normal during our stay. We would sit and laugh, talk about our hopes and dreams for our families, talk about our own kids getting together one day to play. Jenna went that extra mile and decorated his white board with designs, took pictures, did crafts, hung sayings and stickers around his room. She made a sterile hospital room look like home. I remember calling her late at night to check on him and having the best conversations. She, like Brenda, became a part of our family.

What those nurses in the NICU do day in and day out is a true gift. They are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. They’re patient, they’re kind, and, above all else, they love.

Within the first few days, we met Dr. Padbury. The first thing he did was tell me how beautiful our son was. He talked to me like any other doctor would talk to their patient, making me feel as if everything was going to be ok. We knew there could be ups and downs, and we knew that things could change hour-to-hour let alone day-to-day, but the faith I had in this man and his team was unwavering. Plus, he’s a Red Sox fan, so how could we go wrong?

For 56 days, my husband and I traveled back and forth to Women & Infants. For 56 days, I prayed every minute of every day. For 56 days, I relied on these incredible people to take the very best care of my most precious treasure. For 56 days, I watched my son make strides to beat all of the odds.

The NICU is a place of small victories and these tiny babies are superheroes.

After my NICU experience, I’d offer these tips for other families in the same situation:

  • Find something positive, grab onto it, and hold on for dear life. Do not let the negative take over your thoughts – persevere, fight like hell, and keep working towards that next goal.
  • The NICU is a place of small victories – look for them, they’re there even on the hardest days. Soak them in and put your focus there.
  • ALWAYS do what is best for your family. Whether it’s no visitors, lots of visitors, sleeping over, or visiting every other day, decide what is best for your baby and your family and stick to it. This is your journey, not anyone else’s.
  • Trust the process but, most of all, trust yourself. Whether your baby is one pound or 10, you’re a mama. Let your instincts take over.
  • The path to your destination may be long and winding road but you will get there.
  • There will be bad days so prepare, deal with them, and move forward. Better days are ahead.
  • Hold on tightly to your partner. As hard as it is for you, he or she is going through something too. Don’t shut them out.
  • When people offer help, accept it. You can’t do everything yourself. Focus on you, your family, and your baby.
  • Advocate for your baby. If you have questions, ask them. If you have concerns, voice them.
  • Finally, give yourself a break. Allow yourself to feel – grieve, cry, laugh, cry again (you’ll do lots of it) – but remember, this too shall pass.

Ed. Note: Today, Cameron is a healthy 4-year-old who loves sports, the Red Sox and being a big brother to his little brother Mason.

Learn More

Learn more about the NICU at Women & Infants Hospital.